MoJo Author Feeds: Tim McDonnell | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en A Massive Climate Summit Is About to Happen in Paris. Here's What You Need to Know. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>On Monday, roughly 40,000 heads of state, diplomats, scientists, activists, policy experts, and journalists will descend on an airport in the northern Paris suburbs for the biggest meeting on climate change since at least 2009&mdash;or maybe ever. The summit is organized by the United Nations and is primarily aimed at producing an agreement that will serve as the world's blueprint for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of global warming. This is a major milestone in the climate change saga, and it has been in the works for years. Here's what you need to know:</p> <p><strong>What's going on at this summit, exactly? </strong>At the heart of the summit are the core negotiations, which are off-limits to the public and journalists. Like any high-stakes diplomatic summit, representatives of national governments will sit in a big room and parse through pages of text, word by word. The final document will actually be a jigsaw puzzle of two separate pieces. The most important part is the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These are commitments made individually by each country about how they plan to reduce their carbon footprints. The United States, for example, has <a href="" target="_blank">committed to cut</a> its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, mostly by going after carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Nearly every country on Earth has submitted an INDC, together covering about 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. (You can explore them in detail <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.) The video above, from Climate Desk partner <em>Grist</em>, has a good rundown of how this all really works.</p> <p>The INDCs will be plugged in to a <a href="" target="_blank">core agreement</a>, the final text of which will be hammered out during the negotiations. It will likely include language about how wealthy nations should help pay for poor nations' efforts to adapt to climate change; how countries should revise and strengthen their commitments over time; and how countries can critically evaluate each other's commitments. While the INDCs are unlikely to be legally binding (that is, a country could change its commitment without international repercussions), certain elements of the core agreement may be binding. There's <a href="" target="_blank">some disagreement</a> between the United States and Europe over what the exact legal status of this document will be. A formal treaty would need the approval of the Republican-controlled US Senate, which is almost certainly impossible. It's more likely that President Barack Obama will sign off on the document as an "executive agreement," which doesn't need to go through Congress.</p> <p>Meanwhile, outside the negotiating room, thousands of business leaders, state and local officials, activists, scientists, and others will carry out a dizzying array of side events, press conferences, workshops, etc. It's basically going to be a giant party for the world's climate nerds.</p> <p><strong>But what about the terrorist attacks in Paris? </strong>Of course, all of this will be happening while the French capital is still reeling from the bombings and shootings that left 129 dead on November 13. Shortly after the attacks, French officials affirmed that the summit would still happen. But it <a href="" target="_blank">will be tightly controlled</a>, with loads of additional security measures. As my colleague James West has reported, many of the major rallies and marches that activists had planned <a href="" target="_blank">will be canceled</a> at the behest of French authorities. So the festive aspects of the summit are likely to be toned way down, with attention focused just on the formal events needed to complete the agreement. The summit could also direct a lot of attention to the <a href="" target="_blank">links between climate change, terrorism, and national security</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Is this actually going to stop climate change? </strong>Short answer, no. The <a href="" target="_blank">latest estimate</a> is that the INDCs on the table will limit global warming to about 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As I <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> in October, "That's above the 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) limit <a href="" target="_blank">scientists say</a> is necessary to avert the worst impacts&mdash;but it's also about 1 degree C less warming than would happen if the world continued on its present course." No one expects that this summit will be the end of the battle to stop climate change. As technology improves and countries get more confident in their ability to curb greenhouses gases, they'll be able to step up their action over time. That's why it's essential for the agreement to include a requirement for countries to do so. In any case, even if the whole world stopped burning all fossil fuels right now, warming from existing greenhouse gas emissions would continue for decades, so adaptation is also a crucial part of the agreement.</p> <p>Some environmentalists have criticized that incremental approach as not urgent enough, given the scale of the problem. They could be right. But the fact is that right now, there's no international agreement at all. The Paris talks will lay an essential groundwork for solving this problem over the next couple of decades. And there's a pretty good chance the talks will be successful. At the last major climate summit, in 2009 in Copenhagen, negotiations crumbled because officials couldn't agree on a set of global greenhouse gas limits that would hold most countries to the same standard despite differences in their resources and needs. That's why, this time around, the approach is bottom-up: Because countries have already worked out their INDCs, there's no ambiguity about what they're willing to do and no need to agree on every detail.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the mere existence of the talks has already spurred a wave of <a href="" target="_blank">new investment in clean energy</a>, new commitments from cities and states around the globe, and other actions that aren't part of the core agreement.<em> </em>And the international peer pressure around the INDCs has already made it clear that simply ignoring climate change isn't a realistic geopolitical option, even for countries like Russia or the oil-producing Gulf states. That's a significant change from what would be happening in the absence of the talks. In other words, it's safe to say that the Paris summit has already been somewhat successful, and now we have the opportunity to see how far that success can go.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>So everything is peaches and cream? </strong>Not quite. There are some big remaining questions about how much money the United States and other wealthy countries will commit to help island nations, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and other places that are highly vulnerable to global warming. The international community is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">still far short</a> of its goal of raising $100 billion annually by 2020 to fund adaptation. The legal status of the agreement remains unclear. We don't know whether countries can agree on a long-term target date (say, 2100) to fully cease all greenhouse gas emissions. And it's unclear how much tension there will be between juggernauts such as the United States, China, and the 43-country-strong negotiating bloc of highly vulnerable developing nations.</p> <p>At Climate Desk, we'll have an eye on all these questions, and more&mdash;both from the ground in Paris and from our newsrooms in the United States. So stay tuned.</p> <p><em>This story has been revised.</em></p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Foreign Policy International Top Stories Fri, 27 Nov 2015 11:00:17 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290661 at China Is Absolutely Destroying the US on Clean Energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When world leaders convene on Monday in Paris for two weeks of high-stakes climate negotiations, one of the top items on the agenda will be how developing nations should prepare for and help to slow global warming. Opponents to President Barack Obama's climate agenda, such as<strong> </strong>GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio, <a href="" target="_blank">like to argue</a> that anything the United States does to curb greenhouse gas emissions will be pointless because countries like India and China aren't doing the same.</p> <p>But <a href="" target="_blank">new data</a> from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that this argument is just hot air: For the first time ever, over the last year the majority of global investment in clean energy projects was spent in developing countries. In fact, clean energy investment in China alone outpaced that in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France <em>combined</em>, BNEF found. Across <a href="" target="_blank">55 major</a> non-<a href="" target="_blank">OECD</a> countries, including India, Brazil, China, and Kenya, clean energy investment reached $126 billion in 2014, a record high and 39 percent higher than 2013 levels.&nbsp;</p> <p>The chart below shows how that level of investment is opening up a market for wind, solar, and other clean energy projects in non-OECD countries that is now larger than the market in the traditional strongholds of the United States and Europe. In other words, the very countries Rubio likes to malign as laggards are actually leading the charge.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/total.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>That trend is likely to continue for decades to come, BNEF found. Check out their projection for growth through 2040:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/power-shift.jpg"><div class="caption">BNEF</div> </div> <p>These numbers add up to a big deal for the climate, because they show that countries in Africa and Southeast Asia that still lack reliable electricity for millions of people are solving that problem, and growing their economies, without relying on dirty fossil fuels. China, to be clear, is still the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and it doesn't plan to <a href="" target="_blank">peak its emissions until 2030</a>. But its early commitment to clean energy means it can continue its rapid rate of growth with far less pollution than it would produce otherwise.</p> <p>The BNEF report is just the<strong> </strong>most recent good sign for the clean energy business. Big corporations in the United States <a href="" target="_blank">are signing contracts for a record amount</a> of clean energy for their data centers, warehouses, and other facilities. And the Paris talks are likely to send a jolt through the industry, as countries around the world redouble their commitments to get more of their power from renewable sources.</p> <p>Stay tuned for more news on this front as the talks unfold over the coming weeks.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Tue, 24 Nov 2015 21:13:29 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290591 at Big Corporations Are Using a Record Amount of Clean Energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On November 30, world leaders will <a href="" target="_blank">flock to Paris</a> to hammer out an international agreement to slow global warming. The agreement is likely to <a href="" target="_blank">give a boost to the clean energy industry</a>, as countries around the world pour money into wind and solar projects as a way to cut their greenhouse gas footprints.</p> <p>In the United States clean energy is already a booming business. Solar is the <a href="" target="_blank">fastest-growing energy source</a> in the country, and in 2015 total investment in renewable energy projects here reached <a href="" target="_blank">nearly $40 billion</a>. Here's some more good news: Big corporations are signing up for a record amount of clean energy for their offices, data centers, warehouses, and other facilities, according to a new <a href="" target="_blank">analysis</a> by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit environmental research outfit.</p> <p>RMI tracked publicly announced contracts between corporations and large-scale wind and solar farms and found that in 2015 the total reached 2,100 megawatts, roughly equal to 525,000 home rooftop solar systems. That's 75 percent higher than what RMI measured last year, and it includes more than a dozen companies with new contracts. New contracts this year include Dow Chemical, General Motors, Walmart, and Kaiser Permanente. It's also a big win for the climate: Electricity <a href="" target="_blank">accounts for</a> one-third of US greenhouse gas emissions, and more than one-third of electricity goes to commercial users. So if big companies are clamoring for clean energy, that can have a significant, near-term impact on reducing the nation's greenhouse gas footprint.</p> <p>"The pressure is mounting [for corporate executives] to take action" on climate change, said Herv&eacute; Touati, RMI's managing director. "What they realize is that signing these large deals is the best way to say you are addressing your sustainability agenda."</p> <p>In most cases, the contracts are "power purchase agreements," where the company agrees to buy a certain amount of power from a wind or solar farm at a fixed price for 10 to 20 years. These contracts are mutually beneficial, Touati explained: They give renewable energy developers the guaranteed revenue they need to finance big new projects, and give the companies long-term certainty about one of their biggest expenses, electricity.</p> <p>Tech companies such as Google and Facebook were early adopters of large-scale clean energy, thanks to the sky-high electricity consumption at data centers. Last year, Apple announced that <a href="" target="_blank">94 percent</a> of its operations are powered by clean energy, including a <a href="" target="_blank">massive solar array</a> outside its data center in North Carolina. Now, Touati said, a more diverse mix of corporations is getting in on the act, including hospitals, hotels, and shipping companies.</p> <p>That trend is driven by a confluence of factors that have made clean energy contracts seem like low-hanging fruit to top corporate financial officers. The cost of clean energy is continuing to plummet&mdash;solar power <a href="" target="_blank">could soon be cheaper</a> than conventional grid electricity in all 50 states. Meanwhile, customers and investors are increasingly conscientious about companies' impact on the environment. A <a href="" target="_blank">recent survey</a> by the World Resources Institute found that half of all Fortune 500 companies have implemented specific goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewables.</p> <p>The only losers in this arrangement, Touati said, are traditional electric utilities, which more cling to fossil fuel-fired power plants. For those power companies, the loss of big corporate customers is harder to brush off than losing a few homes to rooftop solar. That could motivate them to clean up their act more quickly.</p> <p>"When we come with Google and Facebook and those big names and we tell [electric utilities] that these big corporations want this, then they start to listen," he said. "This trend is going to be difficult to stop."</p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Corporations Energy Infrastructure Fri, 20 Nov 2015 19:46:41 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290241 at This Jeff Goldblum Video Isn't Really That Funny, But I Give Him Credit for Trying <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>It's pretty hard to be funny about climate change. Not just because the subject tends to be grim, but also because the solutions tend to be technical, wonky, and interesting mostly just to nerds.</p> <p>The video above, released today by Funny or Die in affiliation with the League of Conservation Voters, makes a valiant effort. It features Jeff Goldblum explaining the Obama administration's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a boardroom full of cartoonishly evil fossil fuel executives. I won't spoil what he says, since it's the punchline (such as it is). Suffice to say the execs don't like it&hellip;and something about <em>Miami Vice </em>star <a href="" target="_blank">Don Johnson</a>.</p> <p>I also won't go on record vouching for the jokes in this. I chuckled a few times. I will say that Goldblum&mdash;or rather his character, the mysterious "Fixer"&mdash;nails his description of the <a href="" target="_blank">Clean Power Plan</a>, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from the power sector by about a third by 2030, and which will form the backbone of Obama's contribution to the <a href="" target="_blank">upcoming global climate talks in Paris</a>. The framing of the video is also spot-on: The plan is indeed <a href="" target="_blank">facing stiff opposition</a> from coal companies and the industry's allies in statehouses <a href="" target="_blank">and in Congress</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Clean Power Plan is admittedly kind of boring to most people, despite being a groundbreaking policy achievement and an important step toward saving the planet from global warming. So if it takes Jeff Goldblum to get people interested, I've got no problem with that. Enjoy!</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Thu, 19 Nov 2015 18:41:30 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290066 at Watch: Obama’s Top Environmental Official on the Paris Attacks and Why Climate Change Threatens National Security <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>With a major global climate summit in Paris less than two weeks away, the Obama administration's top environmental official is saying climate change is a major threat to US national security.</p> <p>"There are a variety of impacts that we're feeling from a changing climate, and we need to stop those impacts from escalating by failing to take action&mdash;one of those is instability," said Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in an interview Tuesday with Climate Desk. McCarthy pointed to drought and wildfires in California as examples of climate impacts that can displace people from their homes, and she noted that many of the same things are happening in less stable parts of the world. You can watch portions of the interview above.</p> <p>"We can see that underlying issues in many countries that lead to animosity, and then can lead to conflict," she said. "So it is a national security issue for us, as well as an issue that's incredibly important for our local communities."</p> <p>McCarthy's comments join a growing chorus of experts who see a direct link between global warming and national security. The debate over that theory seems likely to intensify over the next few weeks, in part because the Paris climate negotiations follow closely on the heels of Friday's terrorist attacks that left 129 people dead in the French capital.</p> <p>Just days before the Paris attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry gave <a href="" target="_blank">a speech</a> in which he called climate change "a threat to the security of the United States." On Saturday, Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." President Barack Obama has <a href="" target="_blank">made a similar point</a> several times, as have numerous <a href="" target="_blank">security experts</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">defense officials</a>. (Donald Trump is <a href="" target="_blank">skeptical</a>.)</p> <p>After the attacks, French officials were quick to confirm that the climate summit&mdash;which is <a href="" target="_blank">meant to yield</a> a groundbreaking international agreement to slow climate change&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">would go on</a>, albeit with scaled-back public events and heightened security. Obama is expected to attend, along with White House negotiators. McCarthy has not yet said whether she will be there, and while her agency isn't responsible for conducting the core negotiations, she still has a vital role to play in convincing other countries that the United States is serious about climate action.</p> <p>The US negotiating position&mdash;Obama has <a href="" target="_blank">promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions</a> 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025&mdash;hinges largely on the <a href="" target="_blank">Clean Power Plan</a>, a new set of EPA regulations on emissions from power plants that was largely crafted under McCarthy. The <a href="" target="_blank">plan</a> itself cites national security as a justification for taking action on global warming. "Impacts of climate change on public welfare also include threats to social and ecosystem services&hellip;these impacts are global and may exacerbate problems outside the US that raise humanitarian, trade, and national security issues for the US," it states.</p> <p>The EPA plan has come under heavy fire since the Clean Power Plan was finalized in August. A coalition of two dozen coal-dependent states are <a href="" target="_blank">attempting to block the plan in court</a>, and on Tuesday the Senate <a href="" target="_blank">passed a pair of resolutions</a> to overturn the plan. Those resolutions face a certain veto from Obama.</p> <p>McCarthy said she is "very confident" the plan will survive all these challenges. But since it forms the legal basis for the US commitment in Paris, McCarthy said her staff has been in contact with their counterparts in other countries in an effort to assure them that they can count on the United States to follow through.</p> <p>"We're moving forward, and we try to make people understand that," McCarthy said. The Clean Power Plan is "a signal of the seriousness of the United States and this president, and the fact that we are going to be driving reductions down that other countries can count on, so they can come to the table and also contribute."</p></body></html> Environment Video Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Top Stories Infrastructure Wed, 18 Nov 2015 17:45:22 +0000 Tim McDonnell 289846 at France Scrambles to Secure Upcoming Climate Talks After Deadly Attacks <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Saturday, just a day after terrorist attacks in Paris left at least <a href="" target="_blank">129 people dead and hundreds more injured</a>, the French government vowed to forge ahead with a long-scheduled international summit on climate change.</p> <p>The summit, which is scheduled to start in just two weeks, will take place at an airport in the northern suburbs of Paris, not far from the stadium that was the site of multiple bombings on Friday. There, world leaders <a href="" target="_blank">plan to hash out final details</a> of the most wide-reaching international agreement ever to combat climate change. White House officials <a href="" target="_blank">confirmed</a> to <em>Politico </em> that President Barack Obama still intends to attend the talks, as scheduled prior to the attacks. Dozens of other heads of state are expected to be there as well.</p> <p>"[The summit] will go ahead with reinforced security measures," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>. "This is an absolutely necessary step in the battle against climate change and of course it will take place."</p> <p>Christiana Figueres, who chairs the UN agency overseeing the talks, released a similar statement on Twitter:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Of course <a href="">#COP21</a> proceeds as planned. Even more so now. <a href="">#COP21</a> = respecting our differences &amp; same time acting together collaboratively.</p> &mdash; Christiana Figueres (@CFigueres) <a href="">November 15, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Even prior to the attacks, 30,000 French police officers were scheduled to secure the event, <a href="" target="_blank">according to Radio France International</a>. More than 10,000 diplomats, non-governmental organization employees, and journalists <a href="" target="_blank">are expected</a> to attend the summit. Specific new security measures have not yet been made public, but <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Politico </em>quoted</a> an unnamed French official who said participants should expect "extremely tightened security" following the attacks.</p> <p>Paul Bledsoe, a former climate advisor to President Bill Clinton, also <a href="" target="_blank">told <em>Politico </em></a>that the attacks could actually improve the odds that the talks reach a successful outcome.</p> <p>"The resolve of world leaders is going to be redoubled to gain an agreement and show that they can deliver for populations around the world. The likelihood for a successful agreement has only increased because of these attacks," Bledsoe said.</p> <p>On Thursday, just a day before the attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="" target="_blank">appeared to butt heads</a> with his French counterpart over what the exact legal status of the agreement will be. Other questions remain as well, such as how wealthy, heavily polluting countries such as the United States will help developing nations pay for climate change adaptation. But overall, the Paris talks are expected to <a href="" target="_blank">yield a better outcome</a> than the last major climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, which failed to produce any meaningful action to curb greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the impacts of global warming.</p> <p>Meanwhile, on Monday French officials <a href="" target="_blank">said they would block</a> a series of rallies and side events that were scheduled to take place outside the main negotiations. Environmental groups are scrambling to work out how to change their plans following the attack. Several groups involved in organizing protests and rallies that were intended to coicide with the Paris talks confirmed to <em>Mother Jones</em> that a hastily arranged meeting to hash out a plan will take place on Monday evening, Paris time. Will Davies, a spokesman for Avaaz, one of the main advocacy groups involved, said that despite the flurry of activity, plans for global marches in cities other than Paris were still going ahead as scheduled.</p> <p>Stay tuned for more updates on this story.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk International Mon, 16 Nov 2015 18:32:56 +0000 Tim McDonnell 289586 at This Chart Shows Which Countries Are the Most Screwed by Climate Change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Verisk_Maplecroft_Climate_Change_Vulnerability_Index_2016_Infographic.jpg"><div class="caption">Verisk Maplecroft</div> </div> <p>One of the cruel ironies of climate change is that its impacts tend to fall hardest on the countries least equipped to manage them.</p> <p>When drought or sea level rise strike the United States, communities at least have access to federal aid, top scientific expertise, public investment in expensive climate-ready infrastructure, and the like. But some of the most extreme effects of global warming are headed for developing countries&mdash;drought wiping out crops in East Africa, or catastrophic hurricanes pounding Southeast Asia&mdash;that don't have access to those resources.</p> <p>New research from Maplecroft, a UK-based risk consultancy, paints a pictures of where vulnerability to climate change is most pressing. Their analysis drew on three criteria: exposure to extreme events, based on the latest meteorological science; sensitivity to impacts (i.e., does a country have other sources of income and food supply if agriculture takes a hit?); and adaptive capacity&mdash;are the country's government and social institutions prepared to work under adverse climate conditions and help citizens adapt to them?</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, Africa and Southeast Asia ranked the lowest, while Scandinavian countries ranked the highest. (While definitely at risk from sea level rise, countries such as Norway and Sweden have rich, highly functional governments to manage adaptation.) The <a href="" target="_blank">major global climate talks in Paris</a> are coming up in just a couple weeks; the chart above makes it clear why it's so important for big players like the US and China to work closely with delegations from developing countries on solutions that will provide immediate support and relief.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk International Fri, 13 Nov 2015 19:33:20 +0000 Tim McDonnell 289411 at 4 Charts Show the Bright Future Ahead for Clean Energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With high-stakes climate negotiations just around the corner, things are looking rosy for the producers and sellers of wind turbines and solar panels.</p> <p>In just a couple weeks, world leaders will <a href="" target="_blank">gather in Paris</a> to hash out a global agreement to combat climate change. On Thursday, top diplomats from the United States and France <a href="" target="_blank">appeared to butt heads</a> over the legal status of the agreement, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticizing a statement made by Secretary of State John Kerry that the greenhouse gas reduction targets in the agreement will not be legally binding.</p> <p>Each party to the agreement offers its own target based on its abilities. The US, for example, has <a href="" target="_blank">committed to reduce</a> its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The targets are a key piece of the agreement, since they represent countries' plans to limit the emissions that cause climate change.</p> <p>The targets offered so far&mdash;known in UN jargon as intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs&mdash;have faced criticism from environmental groups, in part because it remains unclear how they will be enforced, as Kerry's spat with the French makes clear. Moreover, cumulatively, they <a href="" target="_blank">don't put the world on track</a> to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as scientists and diplomats have agreed is necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.</p> <p>But that hardly means the agreement will be worthless. The INDCs also include information about how countries plan to <em>reach</em> their emissions targets. And as several recent reports have helped to illustrate, the Paris talks could be a huge boon to the global clean energy industry&mdash;an industry that was worth about <a href="" target="_blank">$270 billion</a> as of 2014 and is growing fast.</p> <p>The first sign came from a <a href="" target="_blank">United Nations analysis</a> in late October, which combed through INDCs from almost every country on Earth and found that most of them include plans to invest in renewable energy within their borders. Some of those plans include specific policies&mdash;such as providing tax incentives or drawing on international aid dollars&mdash;and some more vague. Taken together, renewable energy appears to be the most common strategy for meeting emissions targets, compared to boosting energy efficiency, cleaning up the transportation sector, stopping deforestation, and other methods:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/implementing-areas_0.jpg"><div class="caption">UNFCCC</div> </div> <p>"Clearly countries are looking at renewables as a solution to tackle the energy challenges they're facing," said Thomas Damassa, a senior analyst at the World Resources Institute's climate program. "It's clearly something that's on all countries' minds, not a device for only the rich. It's a viable option for all countries."</p> <p>According to <a href="" target="_blank">Damassa's research</a>, if Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States&mdash;which together represent 65 percent of global energy demand&mdash;follow through on their INDCs, the amount of clean energy on the grid will more than double by 2030. That represents an increase from approximately 8,900 terawatt-hours of global clean energy in 2012 to 19,900 terawatt-hours in 2030. (The US currently consumes about <a href=";cy=2012" target="_blank">4,000 terawatt-hours</a> of total electricity&mdash;from renewable and non-renewable sources.) The chart below illustrates the projected change in a few of these countries:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/generation-increase.jpg"><div class="caption">WRI</div> </div> <p>Different countries have different definitions of "clean energy." For example, the US is the only one of Damassa's countries that doesn't count large hydro dams. India, China, and Mexico include nuclear power plants. In fact, China plans to increase its supply of nuclear power nearly 900 percent, Damassa found, accounting for nearly half of its total clean energy by 2030. That would be a big win for the climate, because nuclear power doesn't emit greenhouse gases, regardless of concerns about cost and safety.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nuclear_1.jpg"><div class="caption">WRI</div> </div> <p>Damassa found that the renewable capacity implied by these countries' INDCs is about 17 percent higher than the "business-as-usual" case, meaning that the Paris targets could have a significant impact on the industry's growth. Much of that extra growth could take place in countries such as India and Brazil that didn't previously have aggressive clean energy targets.</p> <p>The impact of the United States' INDC may more muted. That target is based on the projected outcome of the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">flagship climate regulations</a>, which will limit greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Under that plan, the US aims to get <a href="" target="_blank">20 percent</a> of its electricity from renewables by 2030, up from 7 percent now. Environmentalist have criticized that goal as not being ambitious enough.</p> <p>"In our view, the targets set by the [Clean Power Plan] are not terribly stringent above and beyond what we anticipate will occur in the marketplace anyway," said Ethan Zindler, the head of policy at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Still, in the face of repeated attacks on <a href="" target="_blank">federal tax credits</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">state-level clean energy policies</a>, the INDC could be an important backstop, Zindler said, because it "adds greater certainty around renewables into the next decade."</p> <p>In any case, the INDCs are just one piece of the puzzle. There's little doubt about which direction the clean energy industry is headed, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">projection</a> released this week by the International Energy Agency. That report predicts global investment in clean energy will reach $7.4 trillion by 2040, by which time renewables will provide about a quarter of the world's electricity. Wind is likely to be the <a href="" target="_blank">biggest new source</a>, according to the IEA:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/IEA-sources.jpg"><div class="caption">IEA</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The IEA's analysis includes the INDC targets, which it says "provide a boost to lower-carbon fuels and technologies in many countries." But it also cites falling prices for both&nbsp;renewable technology and for natural gas (which integrates more easily with renewables on the grid than coal does) as major drivers of the industry's growth.</p> <p>Tom Kimbis, vice president of executive affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group, argues that the clean energy industry is already prepared to compete in the global market&mdash;with or without political targets. Still, he concedes that at the moment, it's difficult for companies to make decisions about investing in clean energy projects abroad because the details behind many INDCs remain murky.</p> <p>It's worth noting that IEA projections are notoriously conservative. In the past, the agency has often dramatically low-balled the growth of wind and solar, so there's reason to think the final outcome could be even bigger than what that group is projecting. (David Roberts at <em>Vox</em> has <a href="" target="_blank">an exhaustive explainer</a> on what goes wrong in their analyses.)</p> <p>The simple fact that renewable energy shows up in so many INDCs is a compelling sign of hope for the industry, Damassa said. Back in 2009, at the last major climate talks in Copenhagen, there was nowhere near this level of interest in clean power, he said.</p> <p>"People never would have guessed that renewables would be deployed as quickly as they are," Damassa said. &nbsp;</p></body></html> Environment Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Infrastructure Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:00:15 +0000 Tim McDonnell 289296 at Hillary Clinton Just Did Something None of Her Rivals Have Done <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One thing every Republican presidential candidate can agree on is that they hate President Barack Obama's plan to tackle climate change. Now Hillary Clinton might have a way to remedy one of their biggest concerns.</p> <p>During Tuesday's GOP primary debate, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> that his first action as president would be to repeal the "Clean Power Act." (It's actually the Clean Power <em>Plan&mdash;</em>it's a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, not its own law.) The <a href="" target="_blank">centerpiece of Obama's climate agenda</a>, the new rules aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by a third by 2030, largely by requiring states to reduce their dependence on coal-fired power plants. The plan, Paul said, has "devastated my state," presumably a reference to jobs in the coal sector that could be lost.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="candidate matrix" class="image" src="/files/climate-matrix-master-GIF_1.gif" style="height: 126px; width: 225px;"></a> <div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Check out Climate Desk's ultimate guide to the presidential candidates' positions on climate change </strong></a></div> </div> <p>Paul's coal-country politician peers agree. Kentucky is one of two dozens states that recently moved to <a href="" target="_blank">block the Clean Power Plan in court</a>, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is at the helm of an effort to <a href="" target="_blank">block the plan in Congress</a>. So far, their ideas to preserve the coal-country economy have focused on derailing the rules needed limit the gases that cause climate change, rather than retrofitting that economy for a new century powered by clean energy. In fact, neither Paul nor any of his presidential opponents (including Democrats Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley) have laid out what they would do as president to smooth the transition for coal communities as the market for our dirtiest form of energy rapidly shrinks.</p> <p>Today Clinton produced her own $30 billion plan, which would use a smattering of tax incentives and grant funding to support public health, education, and entrepreneurial initiatives in coal communities from Appalachia to Wyoming.&nbsp;</p> <p>You can read the full plan <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. It follows the lead of a <a href="" target="_blank">similar but much smaller initiative</a> Obama rolled out last month. Much of it is targeted at rebuilding infrastructure&mdash;highways, bridges, railroads, broadband networks. The Clinton campaign says that kind of development would not only create new jobs to replace those lost in the coal industry, but be vital for growing new industries.</p> <p>Paul is definitely right that <a href="" target="_blank">Big Coal is suffering</a>. 2014 saw a record number of coal plant closures nationwide; stock prices at several of the biggest coal companies have <a href="" target="_blank">dropped dramatically</a> over the past couple years. But while Republicans like to lay the blame for coal's decline at the feet of Obama's EPA, the truth is that stopping the Clean Power Plan&mdash;which can't be blamed for the current decline, as it hasn't even legally gone into effect yet&mdash;wouldn't save the industry. Coal is being challenged by rock-bottom natural gas prices, a booming market for renewable energy, and an emerging global consensus that burning tons of old rocks that produce pollution <a href="" target="_blank">responsible for thousands of deaths</a> each year while warming the climate just isn't a savvy 21st-century practice.</p> <p>In other words, a plan to restructure coal country's economy is going to be necessary regardless of what happens to Obama's climate regulations. Of course, that might require Republican candidates to <a href="" target="_blank">admit that climate change is, you know, real</a>.</p></body></html> Environment 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Hillary Clinton Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:00:05 +0000 Tim McDonnell 289271 at This Map Shows Where the Next Clean Energy Gold Mine Is <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The desert in Southern California could be in for a climate-friendly makeover, after the Obama administration released its plans to develop more renewable energy projects on federally owned land.</p> <p>On Tuesday the Interior Department released the final version of a <a href="" target="_blank">plan</a> that would open up about half a million non-contiguous acres&mdash;half the size of Rhode Island&mdash;for projects such as wind and solar farms in the Mojave Desert and surrounding areas. It would also more than double the amount of land dedicated to protecting delicate desert ecosystems that are home to vulnerable species, including the desert tortoise.</p> <p>The Mojave Desert, which stretches across most of Southern California, is a potential gold mine for clean energy. Earlier this year, the <a href="" target="_blank">world's largest solar farm</a> opened there, near Joshua Tree National Park. According to Interior, the desert and the its surrounding area have the sun and wind potential to support 20,000 megawatts of renewable projects, about equal to the <a href="" target="_blank">amount of solar</a> energy installed nationwide today. In announcing the plan, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said that public lands will "play a key role" in helping the United States meet its goal of procuring <a href="" target="_blank">20 percent</a> of its electricity from renewable sources (excluding large hydro dams) by 2030&mdash;up from about <a href="" target="_blank">7 percen</a>t now.</p> <p>But over the past few years, efforts to develop all that potential have sparked clashes between clean energy buffs and conservationists who don't want to see pristine landscapes blanketed by vast arrays of solar panels. One pioneering project, the Ivanpah Lake solar farm, became a pariah after environmental groups said that it <a href="" target="_blank">encroached on tortoise habitat</a> and that its sunlight-concentrating panels were blasting superheated rays into birds' flight paths and killing tens of thousands of them. Subsequent estimates <a href="" target="_blank">put the death toll much lower</a>, but the <a href="" target="_blank">Ivanpah controversy underscored just how hard it can be</a> for government planners to find common ground between competing environmental interests.</p> <p>The new plan (finalized in October but made public Tuesday) is meant to clear the air by painstakingly analyzing a 2 million-acre swath of Southern California and offering a comprehensive take on where to focus clean energy development. Scientists and planners from a host of agencies stockpiled research on wildlife, water, agriculture, historic and cultural sites, and other features in an effort to find spots that have high renewable energy potential with minimal environmental impact.</p> <p>In the map below, the pink and red areas are where the Bureau of Land Management recommends that private developers focus their efforts. Orange and blue hatching shows areas proposed for conservation:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/california_0.jpg"><div class="caption">BLM</div> </div> <p>Anyone who wants to build a wind or solar farm in these areas still has to go through the normal permitting process that any development on public land has to clear. But the plan is meant to help developers avoid headaches by showing them the areas that the feds have already decided are either not ecologically sensitive, or that are already too degraded to worry much about building in. That's a departure from the previous <em>modus operandi</em>, in which federal officials made case-by-case decisions on each proposed project.</p> <p>"It's a real change from how BLM has approached renewable energy development in the past," said Erica Brand, California energy program director at the Nature Conservancy. The agency, she added, is "protecting desert landscapes by directing development to areas that are more degraded."</p> <p>Similar reviews of private and state-owned land will be released over the next year. And you can bet that there will be plenty of interest from renewable energy companies. California has the country's most favorable investment climate for renewable energy, <a href="" target="_blank">according to Ernst &amp; Young</a>, and the state <a href=";utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+renewableenergyoutlook%2Ffull+%28Renewable+Energy+Outlook%29?utm_source=Mondaq&amp;utm_medium=syndication&amp;utm_campaign=LinkedIn-integration" target="_blank">recently adopted</a> the country's most aggressive renewable energy target: 50 percent of its electricity mix by 2030. That's up from <a href="" target="_blank">20 percent</a> now.</p> <p>"The [Mojave] Desert has some of the most intact natural landscapes in the lower 48," Brand said. "As we transition to cleaner energy sources, and work to meet our climate goals, we also have to keep those natural resources intact."</p></body></html> Environment Maps Animals Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Wed, 11 Nov 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Tim McDonnell 289046 at